This is a quick spoiler-free review of Gravity which I saw yesterday at the IMAX. A more thorough review, full of spoiler-y goodness may follow later. Or not.

So, firstly – believe the hype. Everything you’ve heard about these being the best space sequences, and especially the best weightless sequences ever shot – that’s all true. Almost every frame is stupefyingly convincing. IMAX 3D makes all the difference, I imagine this would lose a lot on Blu-Ray, or heaven forbid DVD.

And I’ve been pretty down on 3D in the past but here it’s used with remarkable taste and restraint. We got a trailer for The Hobbit before the movie and it had that awful cardboard cut-out look that so many stereoscopic movies have these days. In Gravity, apart from some flying debris, what you mainly get is depth – horrifying, unimaginable, inky, depth.

The storyline is lean to the point of austere. After a dizzying 12 minute sequence with no apparent cuts, all hell breaks lose when a cloud of debris ploughs in to astronauts repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. Minutes later George Clooney’s grizzled and loquacious old space-salt and Sandra Bullock’s wet-behind-the-ears scientist are the only survivors with no working shuttle to get them back to Earth. What follows is an amazingly contained and sustained ordeal as they struggle to make it back to Earth safely.

Director Alfonso Cuarón (who wrote the screenplay with his son Jonas) is extraordinarily rigorous about point-of-view, almost never showing us material which would not be visible to the protagonists, and only allowing such sounds as would be likely to transmit through spacesuits to be heard. In one groundbreaking shot, the camera drifts, almost lazily, inside Sandra Bullock’s helmet and back out again. What’s impressive is that this doesn’t seem like showboating, it’s a natural part of the visual grammar of the movie.

It isn’t perfect. Most of the technical quibbles are irrelevant to me, when they got so much else right. I don’t really care that the shuttle has been decommissioned, or that orbital mechanics make journeys from one craft to another much more complex than is depicted here. I’m sure the law and medicine I see practiced in movies isn’t accurate either. So what? But I do have some issues of pure audience credibility in the last few minutes.

And the tone wobbles a little in the middle. By making the bold, and probably correct, decision to avoid clumsy flashbacks to her life back on Earth, Cuarón as writer and director requires that Sandra Bullock’s back-story is delivered almost entirely in two brief dialogue scenes, at least one of which felt just a little forced. But Bullock and Clooney both do excellent work here – theirs are basically the only faces we see – aided by (of course) Ed Harris as mission control, voice only and precious little of that.

Gravity is an extraordinary achievement, a fine adventure story in a breathtaking environment, helmed with precision and rigour. I don’t know how much of it will live with me, but I’ve very, very pleased to have seen it, and delighted to see it get made. Such a strongly authored piece, with no franchise to back it (and it’s essentially immune to sequels) deserves to do well and it’s been killing it at the box office.

There is even talk of Oscar nominations – about which, more very shortly…

Six more bridge hands
So… what did I think of Name/Night/Day/Time/Space/Hat of the Doctor?